‘We are remembering a great act of courage by our York brother’

Members of the Royal British Legion and the Royal Marines march to Bombardier Wilkinson's grave at York Cemetery. Photographs: Seren Hughes

Veterans paid a very special tribute to a York war hero today.

Immaculately turned out, wearing their medals and carrying standards, members of the Royal British Legion and the Royal Marines marched from Pritchett Chapel to the grave of Bombardier Thomas Wilkinson in York Cemetery.

The parade was part of a service for Bombardier Wilkinson, York’s only recipient of the Victoria Cross. He received the award for outstanding bravery during the Crimean War in 1855.


Paying their respects

A moving service

Chairman of the Royal Marine Association York, Derrick Franks, opened the service.

It was led by the Reverend Philip Cousins, a Royal Naval Association chaplain, and included hymns, bible readings, the Royal Marines Prayer, and the national anthem.

Reverend Cousins said:

  • We are remembering the great act of courage performed by our York brother Thomas Wilkinson on the ramparts of Sebastopol in 1855.

    An act which won him the Victoria Cross, thus bringing honour and glory to the Marine Corps and to his native city.

    Thomas Wilkinson was one of 62 first recipients of the Victoria Cross to receive it from the hands of her majesty before a cheering crowd of 100,000 in Hyde Park on that day in 1857.

Mr Franks laid a wreath on behalf of the association at Bombardier Wilkinson’s grave, saying the famous lines, “They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old.”

The end of the service

Chairman of the Royal Marine Association York Derrick Franks says a few words


People gather at the graveside

Leading the service: the Rev Phillip Cousins, the Royal Naval Association Chaplain
A beautiful resting place

History of Bombardier Wilkinson

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Thomas Wilkinson was born in Marygate, York in 1831.

He served with the Royal Marine Artillery in the Crimean War, and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his outstanding bravery at the Battle of Sebastopol on 7 June 1855, aged 24.

During that battle, he repaired extensive damage while under fire, and lived to tell the tale. He was presented the Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria herself at a ceremony in London on 26 June 1857.

Alongside the VC, he also received the French Legion of Honour, the Turkish Crimean Medal and the British Crimean Medal with clasps for Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol.

He died in York in 1887, aged 55, and was buried with full military honours.

His grave, which he shares with 10 others, can be found in York Cemetery.